Recycling in Bristol – a talk to Sustainable Bishopston on 27 February 2012

Some notes on the meeting from Sarah Thomson:

Ella Williams, from Resource Futures, presented a very detailed and useful outline of the changes which are taking place to Bristol’s waste recycling, following the City Councilʼs agreement with May Gurney, which began last July.

Resource Futures is “a dedicated consultancy, offering all-round expertise in waste management and resource conservation”. You might see Ella and colleagues doing the rounds of local retailers, helping to answer questions about the changes.

The changes are taking place gradually across the city. Some areas are already using the new service but many are still waiting for their new bins. Most will have already noticed a change to their collection days. By July 2012, all parts of Bristol will have adopted the new system.

The changes we will notice are:
  1. The removal of our large 240 litre black bin. Instead, we will be given a smaller 180 litre bin. This is because much of what we throw away can be recycled and the bins are now too large for most households. If you think you can manage with an even smaller wheelie bin, you can request a 140 litre bin.
  2. The provision of a large green box and net ‘lid’.
  3. The need to keep cardboard separate from food waste. This is because cardboard is now going to be recycled back into cardboard packaging rather than composted. This is a significant change. Brown bins must not be lined with cardboard.
  4. Some changes to what we put in the various boxes.
  5. Food waste must not be mixed with garden waste.
  6. You will now need to contact the council to ask them to pick up garden waste SACKS.

Once we have taken delivery of these items, we are ready to start sorting our waste a little differently:

  • The black box will now contain:
    • Newspapers and magazines (including catalogues and junkmail)
    • Yellow pages and telephone directories
    • Glass bottles and jars (rinse out and place the lids with your cans)
    • Clothes, blankets and material (put into untied carrier bags. If wet weather tie bags and clearly label recycling)
    • Pairs of shoes (tie shoes together, and keep them dry)
    • Household batteries, including rechargeable (keep together in a small, clear tied bag)
    • Spectacles
    • Engine oil (in a secure container)
  • Car batteries should be placed NEXT to the black box.
  • The new green box will contain:
    • All bottle tops, lids and caps
    • Bottles from the kitchen (milk, squash, cola, ketchup)
    • Bottles from the bathroom (shampoo, cleanser, shower gel)
    • Bottles from under the sink (bleach, washing up liquid)
    • Pots (yogurts pots)
    • Trays (meat, fruit, biscuit trays)
    • Tubs (ice cream, margarine)
    • Cartons (Tetrapaks) All food and drink cartons. Rinse and flatten these.
    • Cans. All food cans (including milk bottle tops)
    • Foil. Foil and take-away containers.
    • Aerosols. Empty aerosols only. Please remove lids.
    • Cardboard (in or next to your green box)
  • The brown bin will contain:
    • Food waste only – NO CARDBOARD AT ALL (even egg boxes or toilet roll tubes).
    • You may line the bin with compostable liners or newspaper.
  • Large green bin (if paid for – annual direct debt to council of £29)
    • Garden refuse only – again, NO CARDBOARD OR FOOD WASTE
    • You will now need to contact the council (e-mail or phone) if you would like them to collect garden waste sacks.
Important reminders:
  • Tie the net securely at one side of the green bin. If loose, it could get lost.
  • Keep cardboard separate from food waste.
  • The lid of your wheelie bin must be closed. If the crews can’t empty the bin because the lid is not shut, they might not remove the rubbish.
This and more information about waste collection can be found at:

Some answers to questions asked at our recent meeting, from Ella Williams:

1. Wheelie bins not collected due to excess waste

Questions were raised regarding what will happen if people’s wheelie bins aren’t taken due to being overfilled – there was concern this would create a snowball effect for the following collections. May Gurney will empty the bin and then put any side waste back into the bin to be collected again in 2 weeks.  If the bin has no side waste but is “top hatting” (lid not closing) then we are assuming the crews will empty the bin and leave the one/two bags on top in the bin, although this may not be possible if the material in the bin is not bagged. It is hoped that by leaving waste, this could encourage residents to check their waste extra carefully to see if any further recyclables can be removed from waste/bin bags.

2. Grades of Plastic

Plastic that can go into the green box

  • Type 1 PET – most plastics from the kitchen cupboard, bathroom and under the kitchen sink, and tubs, trays and pots.
  • Type 2 HDPE – milk bottles, some toiletry bottles and pots
  • Type 5 PP – bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt pots, margarine tubs
  • Type 6 PS – vending cups, meat trays

Plastic not to go into the green box

  • Type 3 PVC or V –  e.g. plastic pipes, hard plastics (garden furniture), plastic toys, CD/DVD cases, shrink wrap
  • Type 4 LDPE – plastic bags and films such as carrier bags and bin liners, crisp packets, bread bags, frozen food bags, bubble wrap
  • Expanded polystyrene foam, and flower pots (normally type 6 and type 5 respectively)
  • Black plastic no matter what the type

As you can see some type 5 and 6 materials can go in and some can’t and this is part of the reason why this information will not be given to the residents when they receive their box as it is confusing. Finding and seeing the type number on materials can be quite challenging for those with visual impairment.

When you receive the green box a new service leaflet will be provided, please read this to ensure you are putting in the right materials into their relevant box.

3. Recycling labels

There was some discussion around recycling labels on packaging.

This link explains recycling symbols:

4. Can black plastics be taken to the supermarket recycling points?

Recycling points at supermarkets fall under a different contract and therefore are subject to different processes. I have tried contacting Tescos regarding this but have only had a vague reply saying all items put in for recycling are taken to a recycling plant where they are sorted into items which can be recycled and those that cannot, those that cannot would be sent to landfill.

Please contact the supermarket themselves, or read the information on the side of the recycling points there to find out exactly what can be recycled in there and what can’t.

5. How are Tetra Paks recycled?

These types of cartons are typically made of three main materials – paperboard, low-density polyethylene and aluminium foil. The cartons are dropped into a machine called a “pulper” where the cartons become “delaminate” (split into thin layers), the paper content can then be turned into new products like toilet paper, tissue and notebooks. The plastic and aluminium can also be recovered to make things like roof tiles or plastic pots. Tetra Paks from Bristol are taken off for recycling with cardboard to Sittingbourne in Kent.

6. Can greeting cards be recycled?

Either re-use old greeting cards as postcards or gift tags; or small amounts can be recycled with your paper in your black box or if you are on the new service put it into your green box.

The Woodland Trust team up with high street retailers such as WHSmith, Tesco, TK Maxx and Marks & Spencer every January in a campaign to recycle Christmas cards – The cards collected in stores are taken to WHSmith, Tesco, TK Maxx and M&S depots, where they are collected by their own recycling agents. The cards are then graded and taken to recycling plants where they are treated and eventually turned into new products such as tissue paper, photocopy paper or corrugated cardboard.

7. Textiles

Only wearable clothes should be put into the black box for recycling.  Please do not put in puffer jackets or coats; or any wet textiles. Shoes should be tied in pairs to keep them together. The clothes are sent abroad for people in developing countries to wear.

8. Jam Jar Lids

There was discussion around which box jam jar type lids go into. If you have received your green box they can be placed in there along with plastic tops.  If you have not received you green box yet they are put in the black box along with other metals.

Bristol City Council suggests that you could also re-use the jam jar lids to raise plant pots off the ground to let water drain away.

9. Wellies

There was discussion around whether wellies can go in the black box. Bristol City Council advertises that you can either re-use the wellies by cutting them down to use as slip-ons or you could plant things in them. Alternatively give them to your local charity shop.

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